“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
After thirty five years in the pastoral ministry I have reasons enough to walk away from the church. I have seen dishonesty, meaness and duplicity. People have feigned support while privately working to undermine the work of others, including my own. I have seen people driven by the storms of life into the church only to be driven out by the pettiness and indifference of others. At times the Church can seem to be nothing more than a random gathering of touchy, self-interests. So, when I hear from time to time that someone has no time for the church, I can understand. Believe me.
At the same time congregational life has shown me some of the best of what people can be. I have seen selflessness, sacracfice and compassion. I have witnessed the greatest generosity expressed by those who, at least materially, could least afford it. There are those who have wholeheartedly and without expectations, committed their talents and abilities toward the managment of the church’s resources and the good of others. The list of these things could go on as well.
But as good as people can be, they are not why I believe in the Church or remain in the Church. Neither do I walk out because of all the nonsense. For the picture above is an inconsistent one. The characteristics I have described point to a pattern of unreliability that encompasses both pastors and people.
When the people’s expectations were no longer in line with Jesus and His mission, they began to leave Him. He asked those few around Him if they were also set to bail out. Peter’s reply? “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
That’s why I stay in the church.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”